Friday, September 1, 2023

The Woods are Dark and Deep

This half-formed rpg setting idea I got the other day. It could probably work with something D&Dish but might be better suited to something else. Anyway, the world that the players' would know and explore is a sort of mythic forest, a dark fairytale sort of woodland with no apparent beginning or end. Within the woodland are areas of human habitation, where everyone probably speaks the same language, and probably some enigmatic ruins, suggesting perhaps a once united human culture or series of cultures, but nothing like that exists in the present and nothing more than fables that hold any memory of it. Memory, like everything else, gets swallowed by the forest.

The woodland can be a strange place. There are dangers there, even horrors, but there are also places of beauty and enchantment. These last are perhaps hard to find again after visiting, though.  Adventurers are wanderers in the wood, dealing with the things the forest brings them.

I envision it as something like an adult, darker Over the Garden Wall. Perhaps with a bit of Ravenloft with the forest replacing the Mists. The forest might give a similar uncanny vibe to the Zone in the film Stalker. Other inspirations: Grimm's fairytales and the film Company of Wolves. Maybe some stuff from the rpg Symbaroum though it's a bit less "Brother's Grimm meets Acid Western" than what I'm envisioning.


Nathan Irving said...

Sounds like Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood series. A fragment of primeval woodland in Britain, untouched since the ice age. The further in you go the bigger it gets, and the further back in time you go. It holds mythagos, or fragments of mythic archetypes like Robin Hood & Merlin, but different versions based in different times. Also Romans and Celts and ppre-celtic peoples.

Kyana said...

Sounds a lot like Darkwood videogame to me, although that one is definitely more survival horror.

David Haraldson said...

I really like this. The mystic forest (or Mystic Wood, even) certainly has deep roots in our hobby and folklore, doesn't it?

A few years ago, I stumbled across a post-apocalyptic SFRPG by Greg Saunders, called Summerland, which you might find interesting.

From the promotional blurb:
"Summerland is a game about desolation and redemption in a post-apocalyptic world destroyed by a vast supernatural forest ... In Summerland, players take on the roles of Drifters, characters who travel beneath the Sea of Leaves, the vast supernatural forest that has devastated the works of humanity. They are driven to constantly move on due to a past trauma that while protecting them from the Call, the siren-song of the forest, prohibits them from being accepted in to what's left of society. Instead they must confront their past, resolve their trauma and at last join the remainder of humanity."

I only have the first revised and expanded edition, so I can't say how much I'd like the second edition. IIRC, it pitches itself as a storytelling game rather than a trad game (and it doesn't use maps, which always makes me a little sad when it comes to my TTRPGs). But, thematically, it might be a game that you find useful to "think with" (along with Nathan's and Kyana's references).

Trey said...

Sounds interesting!

David Haraldson said...

Wild. My Summerland comment disappeared (or I can no longer see it, at least).

Yeah, what counted against it for me was that I was (and still am) very into "location-based" play (and maps) and I thought it was crying out for that. And in my physical copy, the digital art, while possibly very lovely, seemed to have the contrast set in such a way that the details were difficult to discern.

I really should take a look at the second edition.

Trey said...

I don't know! I see them both.

David Haraldson said...

Hmmm ... it's back. I can't explain it--Chrome screwing with me, because I prefer to use Firefox for non-Google stuff?

Anyway--thanks so much for the idea and food-for-imagination!